Why can’t I take a compliment? I worked hard with leading a team of 10 on a complicated project on time and within the budget for an international computer company in my capacity as a Project Coordinator. Although I made plenty of mistakes, each team member came up to me specially and thanked me for doing such a great job with organizing the work and helping with the success of the project. I think it was luck. They think it was hard work and dedication.
How do I deal with this type of communication in the workplace that makes me uncomfortable?
Signed: Hate Compliments (HC)
When the feedback is positive, enjoy and savour it! You did a great job. Listen to it, learn from it and benefit from this great news. Your difficulty with receiving this feedback could stem from a cultural background which dictates that if you do something well and mention it, you are a braggart and arrogant. Denise Bissonnette (2008) in her book 30 Ways to Shine as a New Employee stresses being able to take positive feedback gracefully as it is an important workplace skills.Bissonnette recommends these approaches to dealing with positive feedback:
1. Take a deep breath, smile, and say “THANK YOU”.
Don’t let modesty or embarrassment ruin your accepting and receiving honest feedback or an honest compliment. Do not downplay yourself or put yourself down publicly. It doesn’t mean that you have to develop an inflated ego. You need to shine with the skills and experience you are gaining as well as let everyone know, especially your managers, of the successful outcomes.
2. Don’t dwell on what went wrong.
Remember that your version of an event might not be the same as everyone else. Your experiences and perspective inform your opinion. Other people may have a different understanding of what happened. So, do not be so hard on yourself.
3. Your response.
Whether you are faced with positive or negative feedback, think about the outcome you want from the situation, suggests Bissonnette. Choose the response you think will bring your desired result. Avoid passive responses and choose to be assertive. By not saying anything at all, you run the risk of your successes not being acknowledged. Be self-assured of your success!
4. Focus on solutions.
Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, choose to see all of the great skills, experience, talents and accomplishments you have mastered with this project and others. This is critical both for your resume, cover letter, interview as well as social media profiles. Don’t obsess with what went wrong. Trust yourself to accept the compliments. I would even ask for it in writing in an email, LinkedIn recommendation and/or letter!
5. Acknowledge the others.
If the praise applies to other team members, then mention the other people involved in the success. State their names if you can. For example, if the manager says to you that the new technology looks great, then respond as follows. “Thanks. S, S and S did a great job with the design.” I would definitely avoid a conversation where you respond with another compliment or thank you. I would change the topic to a fun subject or something related to your recent or new project.
Remember, you are not being arrogant or stuck up if you acknowledge positive things about yourself or if you receive a compliment with joy. You must believe that you are worthy and after a while, this will become automatic while still showing humility and welcoming opportunities to learn, improve and grow professionally and personally.